Hugo Chavez may or may not be dead yet, but pinch-hitting comandante Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s designated successor, has apparently lost his mind.
Francisco Toro’s liveblogging of Maduro’s speech on Venezuelan TV today gives a flavor of the frantic paranoia therein. Among other things Maduro said:
“We have no doubt, the time will come in history when we can create a scientific commission to show that Comandante Chávez was attacked with this disease…We have no doubt that our fatherland’s historic enemies looked for a way to harm our Comandante’s health… We already have plenty of clues about this, it’s a very serious matter that will have to be investigated by a special committee of scientists.”
Maduro also said a military attache at the US embassy in Caracas is being expelled for allegedly trying to convince the Venezuelan military to destabilize the government.
More ominously, Maduro warned: “Nobody has immunity here.”
When the announcement of Chavez’s death comes– and even if he is still hanging onto life, it appears imminent– things could get ugly in Venezuela very quickly.
Update: Maduro has announced that Chavez has died.
After Maduro’s insane speech earlier today, I fear for the people of Venezuela. We can only hope his threats were empty, and that the election mandated by the constitution will proceed freely and fairly.
Update 2: Socialist Unity mourns.
Update 3: George Galloway mourns.
Update 4: Human Rights Watch on Chavez’s authoritarian legacy.
Update 5: At The New Republic Francisco Toro explains how Cuba came to dominate Chavez’s political thinking (and much of Venezuela), and how an enormous torrent of petrodollars– perhaps more than $1 trillion– enabled the hyperconsumption that made possible his political (as opposed to substantive) success.
Update 6: Sean Penn and Oliver Stone mourn.